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Jun 08, 2010, 06.59 PM IST | Source: Reuters

Bhopal gas verdict slammed, demand for stricter law

Activists demanded reforms of justice system and stricter laws for industrial disasters after a court took nearly 26 years to hand down a verdict for the world's worst industrial accident in a central Indian city.

Bhopal gas verdict slammed, demand for stricter law

Activists demanded reforms of justice system and stricter laws for industrial disasters after a court took nearly 26 years to hand down a verdict for the world's worst industrial accident in a central Indian city.

Thousands of people were killed in Bhopal after a plant of US chemical firm Union Carbide accidentally released toxic gases into the air, and many more continue to suffer.

On Monday, a court convicted seven Indian former employees of Union Carbide of "causing death by negligence" and sentenced them to two years in jail.

It also imposed a fine of USD 2,100 on each of the seven former employees and convicted the former Indian arm of Union Carbide also of negligence and imposed a USD 10,600 fine.

It was too little, too late, said Audrey Gaughran, a director with campaign group Amnesty International.

"These are historic convictions but 25 years is an unacceptable length of time for the survivors of the disaster and families of the dead to have waited for a criminal trial to reach a conclusion," Gaughran said.

"Justice delayed, denied" said the Times of India daily on Tuesday.

The government says around 3,500 people died in the accident, but activists say 25,000 died in the immediate aftermath and the years that followed. The company and its chairman at the time, Warren Anderson, have refused to face trial.

The verdict was so long in coming because the case was shunted between courts in India where the backlog of cases runs to hundreds of thousands.

The Supreme Court in 1996 had modified the charges against the Indian accused -- from culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison -- on grounds that culpability lay with Union Carbide Corp.

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